Friday, January 30, 2015

Extracting physics of life at the molecular level: A review of single-molecule data analyses

Warren Colomb, Susanta K. Sarkar

Studying individual biomolecules at the single-molecule level has proved very insightful recently. Single-molecule experiments allow us to probe both the equilibrium and nonequilibrium properties as well as make quantitative connections with ensemble experiments and equilibrium thermodynamics. However, it is important to be careful about the analysis of single-molecule data because of the noise present and the lack of theoretical framework for processes far away from equilibrium. Biomolecular motion whether it is free in solution, on a substrate or under force involves thermal fluctuations in varying degrees which makes the motion noisy. In addition, the noise from the experimental setup makes it even more complex. The details of biologically relevant interactions, conformational dynamics, and activities are hidden in the noisy single-molecule data. Extracting biological insights from noisy data is still an active area of research. In this review, we will focus on analyzing both fluorescence-based and forced-based single-molecule experiments and gaining biological insights. Inherently nonequilibrium nature of biological processes will be highlighted. Simulated trajectories of biomolecular diffusion will be used to compare and validate various analysis techniques.

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